Whether we like it or not, stress is a part of life and is something that everyone experiences. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t manage stress effectively!
Good stress managers take care of themselves. They maintain the strength and stamina needed to meet the daily challenges as well as the big stressors that come along. Good stress managers:
* Eat a well-balanced diet
* Get healthful, vigorous exercise
* Get the amount of sleep that makes them feel good
* Stop and relax when situations become tense
They relax by taking walks, spending time on hobbies, changing their attitudes, taking naps, deep breathing, talking to others, and praying or meditating.
Many who complain of persistent fatigue and tension have developed poor health habits. They often eat breakfast on the fly, bolt through lunch, and rush through dinner. They fail to get regular exercise and have few leisure interests. They do not sleep enough and fail to take time to relax. They often smoke and drink heavily and resort to sedatives to induce sleep and tranquilizers to calm their nerves.
A well-nourished individual can withstand and recover from stress better than a poorly nourished person. Does this mean that stress increases your need for extra vitamins and minerals?
Manufacturers of stress supplements would like you to believe this, especially makers of vitamin C, the B vitamins, and zinc. But to date, scientific findings have not established that emotional stress increases our nutritional needs above the Recommended Dietary Allowances. Alas, there is no magic pill or vitamin to relieve stress.
Stress often influences eating habits. Some people react to stress by overeating. Others may undereat. Stress-response eating can make the problem worse. Just skipping a meal or two reduces your concentration, which, in turn, makes you less responsive to stressful situations. Overeating can lead to weight gain, which itself can be stressful. Reacting to stress by either undereating or overeating starts a vicious cycle. To break the cycle, consistently eat moderate-sized, well-balanced meals.
When your muscles are getting too tight and you are losing focus on your work, try these techniques to relax:
For example, do shoulder shrugs. These movements relieve upper chest and shoulder tension. When you are driving, place your hands on the steering wheel and raise your shoulders up to your ears. Hold them in that position for a few seconds and then drop them back to their normal position.
Another simple exercise is called the “shakies.” Stand and shake every muscle in your arms and legs. Start by imagining yourself to be a rag doll. With arms dangling loosely by your side, begin to shake your hands. Then move up the body and include your arms and shoulders and feel the vibrations. Both arms and shoulders should shake energetically. Gradually slow down the shaking and feel the tingling of the body. Next, sit and repeat those moves with both legs. In a minute or two, you will feel less tense and more alert.
Plan rest breaks
Take 10-minute breaks in midmorning and midafternoon. Take along an energy-packed snack and something to read. Stretch out on the ground for a few minutes, and do not think about anything.
Draw a mental picture
Imagine a pleasant, favorite object–a flower, for example. Outline the object in your mind, focusing on special details. Another variation is to imagine your favorite environment, one that is very relaxing to you, and concentrate on the details in it. If your mind wanders, slowly bring it back. Practice daily for 10 minutes and especially when situations are tense.
Take a vacation.
Women have a tough time getting away for vacations. They often joke about having a “full-time job with no sick leave or sick pay.” But if long vacations are not possible, plan mini-vacations to refresh and rejuvenate yourself.
Patricia Tanner Nelson and Sue Snider, Cooperative Extension, University of Delaware; published with permission from the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, NC State University, Raleigh, NC